In a world where a dangerous threat to our health and happiness lurks within nearly 80 percent of the food offered up to us by our local grocery stores…where multitudes are misled by a seemingly supernatural marketing force—a world of confusion…a world of addiction—only one person will be able to bring balance…
You! By recognizing that you’ve exceeded your limits and desperately need to take back control, you’ve already taken the first step in fighting back against sugar.
Follow these 3 simple suggestions to supercharge your willpower:
1. Remove the Liquid Sugars
This means sodas and soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, syrup-flavored coffees, sweet tea, liquid meal replacement shakes, flavored milk, and even fruit juices. Basically, almost anything pre-bottled or mixed up by your barista contains liquid sugars.
Just a quick glance at the sugar content in our favorite “go-to” refreshments yields some sticky-sweet facts:
So, simply cutting out sugary drinks is a powerful way to get out from under the influence of this dose-dependent drug.
Yes. Sugar is addictive. While this idea isn’t popular, it’s true. Refined sugar is very similar to drugs like nicotine and cocaine in its effects on the brain. In fact, intermittent and excessive episodes of sugar intake (like drinking your afternoon Red Bull) have been shown to be a major player in the drug-like dependency on sugar lots of people exhibit.
What’s excessive, you ask? Considering that the World Health Organization (among other major medical institutions) has set the recommended limit for daily sugar consumption at 25 grams, many of our sweet beverage choices exceed that in a single glass.
Which leads me to my second suggestion:
2. Look at the Label and Keep It Low
Thankfully, the FDA requires that sugar content be included on the labels of all prepackaged foods and beverages. Add up the grams of sugar you eat throughout the day. When you hit 25 grams, stop! I often remind my nutrition clients that too much of anything is a bad thing, even those things that are essential.
Sunshine is a great example. Not enough = inadequate vitamin D levels. Too much = sunburn. Obvious? Yes. Painful? Of course. I see 25 grams of sugar as the point when we begin “sun-burning” our insides.
But we don’t tend to think about sugar this way. The pain from sugar may not be so obvious as a sunburn, but many health care professionals note that headache, fatigue, inability to concentrate, allergies, etc. are immediate effects brought on by too much sugar. Long-term effects include metabolic syndrome, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and a whole host of other problems.
It’s important to note that sugar is extremely sneaky. It has more secret identities than Sherlock Holmes. So when you examine those labels, keep in mind that sugar might be hiding behind one of at least 61 (and counting) different names:
Being diligent enough to check the labels for these sugar pseudonyms will set you up for success. Which leads me to my third tip…
3. Self Motivate: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Frequent reminders about just how destructive sugar is can really help.
We can forget just how wrong something is for us when we’re bombarded with promises of a quick treat or a moment of bliss. So I suggest keeping inspirational quotes where you can see them, subscribing to a good healthy eating blog, watching or re-watching documentaries like Fed Up or That Sugar Film, or reading nutrition-related books that speak to you. In my own clinic, I’ve started a weekly book club, starting with Sugar Blues by William Dufty, which helps remind us about sugar every week leading up to the holidays. It’s already helped me turn down my step-dad’s famous BBQ chicken!
Final thought: It’s easy to sometimes feel overwhelmed or even powerless when it comes to our health. But remember—there’s always the next right thing to do. Even choosing just one of these steps can help you get off the sugar train and back on the right track. The power is in doing something. Reducing your sugar intake is one of the best things you will ever do for your health.
- Belinda S. Lennerz, David C. Alsop, Laura M. Holsen, Emily Stern, Rafael Rojas, Cara B. Ebbeling, Jill M. Goldstein, and David S. Ludwig. “Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98(3):641–7, September 2013.
- Nicole M. Avena, Pedro Rada, and Bartley G. Hoebel. “Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake.” Neuroscience and Biobehavior Review, 32(1):20–39, 2008.
- World Health Organization. Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. 2015.